Could New York be Withholding Foreign-Owned Unclaimed Property from their Online Searchable Database?

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US State governments have escheated tens of millions of assets worth tens of billions of dollars belonging to both domestic and foreign owners. An analysis of US State escheatment databases indicates that billions of dollars’ worth of dormant assets belonging to foreign owners in over 230 countries around the world have been transferred to US State treasuries over the past couple of decades. Foreign owners are at a great disadvantage in locating and recovering their lost assets in some US states and deserve the same consumer protection as is granted to domestic owners in the US and as US asset owners would expect to be granted when recovering their own assets internationally.

Of course, unclaimed funds can only be recovered for those assets that are publicly disclosed by state unclaimed property programs. When UP officials mysteriously fail to disclose assets for any reason, consumer protection rights are compromised, and state governments are unfairly benefiting.

For instance, from extensive analysis of publicly-available unclaimed property data provided by the Office of the New York State Comptroller, it appears foreign assets are vastly under-reported in their online searchable database. This is unacceptable as foreign owners of assets being held in New York (of which there are likely tens of thousands) will never be able to locate or recover their money.

This analysis shows that only about 3,000 international assets have “slipped through” into New York’s data pool of over 10 million records posted since 1985. This extremely low rate of international record prevalence is statistically too low to be a correct representation of the number of foreign-owned assets held in a jurisdiction such as New York, where international transactions are commonplace and numerous. This stands out even further when compared with other states, which do not have the level of international financial and business activity that exists in New York.

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